Elke Seidel is an IGM health coach and forest bathing master in Bad Alexandersbad in the Fichtelgebirge Nature Park. The Bavarian Forest Ambassador enjoys taking guests on a mindful discovery tour of the local forest - because it has a truly healing effect..

Ms. Seidel, you work as a forest lifeguard in Bad Alexandersbad - what effect does the forest have on us humans?

A relaxing effect. The fact that spending time in the forest has a positive effect on the immune system and our daily stress level is now proven by many scientific studies. We get in touch with nature, feel at one with it, enjoy the silence and the subdued light in the forest. Walks in the forest can therefore make us more resilient. At the same time, Japanese studies in particular indicate that the messenger substances - so-called terpenes - through which trees communicate with each other and which we also breathe in as humans in the forest have a positive effect on our health. The body produces more natural killer cells in the forest. Exercise in the forest also strengthens the heart, circulation and muscles. In many Bavarian spas, forest bathing is therefore used as a means of increasing mindfulness, strengthening the immune system and training the senses. The Bavarian Spas Association has initiated the "Forest and Health" project in this context. It is one of many holistic health programs developed by GESUNDES BAYERN, the quality brand of the Bavarian spas.

What do guests experience with you during forest bathing?

We walk in a small group for three hours in the Fichtelgebirge landscape around Bad Alexandersbad. While walking slowly, decelerated, the group immerses itself in the atmosphere of the forest and discovers the forest from a new perspective. Forest bathing is about relaxing in and with nature, coming to rest and releasing oneself from everyday stress. Participants learn various mindfulness and relaxation exercises as well as movement elements. The senses are sharpened and the forest is perceived with all its facets, sounds and scents. After a tea ceremony or a jointly created gratitude mandala, the group slowly steps out of the forest and says goodbye. Forest bathing is part of the offer "my health coaching in the ALEXBAD", which I co-conceived. With the five-day program, the team at the ALEXBAD shows participants new ways to eat more consciously in their lives, move more actively, and how they can realize their desire for more time for themselves and serenity. According to the motto "Healthy impulses for everyday life", the participants learn in lectures, workshops and practical units how they can implement their individual health management in everyday life. Physiotherapeutic treatments, massages or a visit to the panorama pool at the ALEXBAD allow participants to relax and recharge their batteries.

Are there exercises from forest bathing that people can also do for themselves out in nature?

Yes, of course, here are a few tips and suggestions: 
- Do a walking meditation - consciously walking very, very slowly for 10 minutes, paying attention to your own steps and breath. You can feel the different texture of the ground, especially when you are barefoot, and consciously concentrate on walking slowly.

- Choose an object that is lying on the ground outside in nature. Take it in your hand, look at it, feel it and sniff it. For example, what does a pine cone sound like when you move it back and forth between your fingers?

- Lean against a tree, close your eyes and listen carefully and feel what is happening around you. What do you hear above you? What's happening on the ground? How do your feet feel on the forest floor?

- If you are in the forest with your partner or the children, there is also a nice exercise for two: One leads the other by the hand or underhooked through nature - and he closes his eyes. How does that feel? What do you perceive?

For Elke Seidel, the forest is a place of peace © www.gesundes-bayern.de - Peter von Felbert

How are you personally doing in the forest?

I have been connected with nature since childhood, I love movement, sport and meeting people. For me, the forest is above all a place of peace and pause - very important, especially in a time of crisis like the present. The forest also awakens positive feelings in me - such as gratitude, solidarity and security. It is important to me to live in harmony with nature. In my job, I have the opportunity to inform, motivate and perhaps inspire people around the topic of health. For me personally, I have found a place where it is a lot of fun to work. Bad Alexandersbad is located in the midst of great nature - the smallest spa in Bavaria is a place of power for me, which radiates a lot of energy and peace. 

How to get to Bad Alexandersbad by train and bus: Plan arrival.

All photos: Just sit and inhale the scent of the forest - it frees the mind © www.gesundes-bayern.de - Peter von Felbert

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